Holding Psychiatrists Accountable For Errors

Many of us have known someone who was admitted to a hospital or other medical care facility in order to protect them and treat them in a safe environment. Unfortunately, deaths in psychiatric care or due to premature release from psychiatric care are far too common. When someone is in a psychiatric facility under the care of a psychiatrist or psychologist, the interdisciplinary medical team is responsible for taking appropriate measures to monitor the patient’s safety. Although “appropriate measures” can vary from one situation to the next, when a patient dies by suicide, it is clear those measures have not been taken. With competent care and appropriate psychological treatment, all mental health facilities should be able to keep their patients alive and well.

How Texas Mental Health Facilities Fail Those Who Need Them Most

The sad reality is this: an emergency room visit or admittance to a psychiatric facility does not ensure your loved one is safe. Licensed mental health professionals are not always trained to properly assess those who are suicidal. And this poor training can lead to disastrous consequences.

Unfortunately, in most situations, by the time psychiatric negligence is apparent, it is too late to change the situation. If your loved one died by suicide as an in-patient in a hospital, it is important to hold the negligent party responsible.

At the Law Offices of Glenn W. Cunningham, we understand the emotional nature of situations like this, and we can help you receive the compensation you and your loved ones deserve in the wake of a tragic death. We work with clients in San Antonio and throughout Texas to establish psychiatrist liability and work to change the care in-patients receive.

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Examples of Psychiatric Malpractice

Psychiatric malpractice can take many forms and is not always readily apparent to the families of the patient. Examples of negligent failures that can lead to injuries or death in a psychiatric hospital setting include:

  • Failure to take an independent and complete psychiatric and medical history of the patient
  • Failure to perform an adequate suicide risk assessment of the patient
  • Failure to ensure the patient’s environment is safe (e.g., no private bathrooms or hidden areas, ligature-resistant doors and doorknobs, breakaway shower rods)
  • Failure to notice signs that the patient may be at risk for self-harm (e.g.,  statements reflecting suicidal ideation, lack of sleep, refusal to go to group therapy, lack of appetite, changes in affect)
  • Failure to properly monitor a suicidal patient (i.e., 1:1 supervision or line-of-sight monitoring versus observation every 15 minutes [AKA Q15 Obs])
  • Failure to protect patients from objects that may be used to harm themselves (e.g., belts, shoelaces, ballpoint pens, bedsheets torn into strips)
  • Failure to refer patient to an appropriate specialist when necessary for further intervention or diagnosis
  • Failure to prescribe proper medication

Contact an Experienced Texas Psychiatric Malpractice Attorney

When a person is undergoing in-patient care at a psychiatric ward, numerous safeguards are put in place to ensure his or her well-being. Unfortunately, many of the safeguards designed to protect people are too often ignored, allowing mentally ill people to have a good understanding of when they can inflict major or deadly self-harm on themselves.

Most hospitals check on psychiatric patients every 15 minutes during the day and every 30 minutes at night. However, that is a negligent industry standard because it only takes six minutes for an in-patient to die by suicide. Although most facilities do not have clocks, patients learn the rhythm of the doctors and nursing staff, and quickly realize that, after a health care provider leaves the room, they will have an uninterrupted opportunity of 15-30 minutes to engage in self-harm. The safer available alternative is for the nursing staff to provide 1:1 supervision of the most at-risk patients; or, at a minimum, line-of-sight observation. For less acute patients, the nursing staff should perform intermittent, time-varied observations (e.g., 5 min., 3 min., 11 min., 1 min., 6 min., etc.), such that patients will not know when the nurse is likely to reenter the room to check on them.

If your loved one died by suicide because they were not monitored appropriately as an in-patient in a hospital setting or because a clinician failed to perform an adequate suicide risk assessment and, therefore, failed to diagnose that your loved one was at high risk of suicide, we could help you hold the negligent party accountable for their actions. We fight aggressively to help our clients receive the compensation, justice, and sense of closure they need and deserve. Contact the Law Offices of Glenn W. Cunningham online or call our office to schedule your free initial consultation with a medical malpractice attorney in San Antonio to get your questions answered, learn if you have a case, and much more. We look forward to hearing from you.

Client Testimonials

I can’t say enough good things about Glenn Cunningham and his firm.

He took my case and fought for me from day one. Glenn and his staff were professional and caring. They kept me updated on all aspects of my case. We were able to go to mediation and reach a settlement that was more than fair. I would recommend Glenn to any of my friends and family. I am beyond pleased with how my case was handled and ultimately settled.


Glenn Cunningham is tough, smart, experienced.

A very deep heartfelt thank you to the whole team at the Law Offices of Glenn W. Cunningham. Glenn is tough, smart, experienced, and he will do everything in his power to make sure that you or your loved one get the best outcome possible from whatever personal tragedy you may be facing. He fought for me when no one else would. He will do the same for you.


I am grateful to Glenn Cunningham for the hard work he did

I am very pleased with the legal services provided by Glenn Cunningham. He is very competent, knowledgeable, caring, personable, and professional. If you are seeking justice for medical malpractice or wrongful death, Glenn will fight for you. He is tenacious and assertive on behalf of his clients. He also keeps you informed of the status of your case on a regular basis.


Glenn Cunningham knows his job well.

Glenn was amazing! Very knowledgeable, and Nicole, his secretary, is very helpful and knowledgeable as well. We never had a problem reaching someone at the office, and our questions were always answered promptly.


This is by far the best attorney for your malpractice case.

I wanted to thank Mr. Cunningham and his staff for there amazing work and dedication to my case and fighting for me when I couldn't. They truly were amazing and always kept my family and I updated on everything that was happening.

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Let's hold health care professionals accountable when their neglect severely injures or kills a loved one.

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